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Chapter 735: Group Acceptance

“Senior brother Shen, we would have all been condemned to eternal servitude if not for our young master. We would have no opportunity to resist or rebel, only endless suffering and shame,” Xue Tong spoke up. Unlike the other sect members who had been executed or slain in the conflict, these people had been able to hide away in Jiang Chen’s residence. Thus, they dared not show disregard for these members of his personal guard.

“Brother Xue, what's going on? Can you talk about it in detail? Who is this enemy of the Regal Pill Palace? Is the sect alright?” Shen Trifire asked.

Xue Tong didn't hide the specifics from them. He gave a comprehensive account of events, omitting only the things Jiang Chen had instructed him to. All of the disciples were shocked, their faces gone bloodless. The sect had been shattered! Almost no living members of the sect remained aside from themselves. Palace Head Dan Chi was nowhere to be found!

The Regal Pill Palace wasn’t alone in this predicament. The entire Myriad Domain was in shambles. All of its sects had been attacked, regardless of size, and it had been almost a total rout. In other words, they were all now as homeless as unburied ghouls, with no news of whether their sect head was even still alive. A collective feeling of bleakness entered their hearts. Many of them couldn't help but show their despair on their faces. That they were still alive was the only thing they could be thankful for. They were certainly a hundred times luckier than the others who had died.

After hearing this weighty news, Shen Trifire also sank into a long silence. This news was unbearable regardless of one’s mental fortitude, and he was no exception. The sect ruined, their elders cut down, their comrades vanquished, and the sect head's fate still unknown. Though they weren't technically wandering cultivators, was there even a difference anymore? They didn't even enjoy the latter’s freedom. If their enemies knew that they lived and still walked free, that would be the day of their doom.

Shen Trifire was the first to shake off his miserable mood, and moved his gaze to Jiang Chen. A moment of clarity flashed within Shen Trifire’s mind. That’s right! The Palace wasn’t completely destitute; it still had Jiang Chen! When the Myriad Domain was surrounded and overwhelmed, Jiang Chen had been able to escape. Returning after the sect had fallen, Jiang Chen had then escaped encirclement a second time! It was Jiang Chen who had crossed several million kilometers to rescue them from their sad fate of enslavement, navigating the Eternal Celestial Capital’s innumerable obstacles in the process. Was a comrade like this unfit to be relied on?

An idea came to Shen Trifire, and he stood up, raising a cupped fist salute to Jiang Chen. “Senior brother Jiang, our sect is fragmented. Only you are able to lead us now. Shen Trifire is at your absolute command. My only desire is that one day, we may be able to revive our sect, and take vengeance upon our foes!”

The other sect members were startled by Shen Trifire’s words. However, they soon realized that without Jiang Chen’s protection, they would have nowhere to go. Stay in Veluriyam Capital? On whose authority? Even Shen Trifire hadn't entered the sage realm, having only attained the eighth level origin realm. Someone with that level of strength would only be considered third or fourth-rate here. Even if they joined another faction, they would still receive no respect. After all, they hadn’t been counted among the top tier even in the Regal Pill Palace. Aside from Shen Trifire, the rest were only second-rate existences in the sect.  As for those considered first-rate, some had died, and still others had fled. Almost none remained except Ling Bi’er.

“What do you think, Rong Zifeng?” Shen Trifire glanced at the man. Rong Zifeng was the furthest ahead in cultivation among the rest, and certainly wanted to side with Jiang Chen. But, he had quarrelled with Jiang Chen when he was still under Shen Qinghong’s authority, and had even fought each other. His perspective was different from Shen Trifire’s.

Rong Zifeng was embarrassed by Shen Trifire’s question, and he looked at Jiang Chen with some difficulty. In his heart, he had already submitted to Jiang Chen. Like everyone else, he was no fool. Jiang Chen had saved his life, and Shen Qinghong had reconciled with Jiang Chen much earlier as well. There was no need for Rong Zifeng to play the role of an apostate. In a time like this, did he really have a choice?

“Senior brother Jiang, I have much offended you in the past. Only after this catastrophe did I come to see your magnanimity. You have my utmost respect. As long as you don’t consider me too weak, I am willing to follow you in your efforts to re-establish our sect!”

“I, too, am willing to follow senior brother Jiang Chen,” Ouyang Chao stood as well. He had competed against Jiang Chen for the quota of Rosy Valley’s sovereign area, and his grandfather Ouyang De had been an elder of the Herbal Hall.  They'd all had some bad blood with Jiang Chen as well. But, these past disagreements were no longer important.

“We will all follow senior brother Jiang Chen, and contribute to re-establishing the sect!” Following Shen Trifire and Rong Zifeng’s lead, the others declared their allegiances as well.

Jiang Chen didn’t doubt their loyalty to the sect. Though there may have been disagreements between individual disciples of the Regal Pill Palace, they all felt a strong sense of belonging when it came to the sect. Otherwise, the invasion wouldn't have claimed so many in casualties.

Jiang Chen had expected a few to be contrarian, so things had gone smoother than he'd anticipated—though that was no surprise either after he took a moment to consider. A great calamity had just befallen the sect; only someone with brain damage could remain oblivious to that. Furthermore, it was abundantly clear that only in unity was there even a chance of a ray of hope. After all I’ve done for them, there’s no reason for them to spurn my protection.

Having thought things through, Jiang Chen nodded with a serious expression. “I don’t doubt the loyalty of anyone to the sect here. But I'll be upfront and frank. Sink or swim, we must stand together. If something bad happens to one of us, the rest will surely suffer as well. The tiny prospect we have for rebuilding the sect can be snuffed out like a candle in a hurricane. So, I hope that certain habits from back home will not be carried over here. You are all comrades, with only each other to rely on. There should be no disputes over feelings, or any petty tricks. Our most important goal is to keep on living!”

“Senior brother Jiang is right. Politics and intrigue can no longer be tolerated. Selfishness will only hurt us all!” Shen Trifire agreed loudly. “Think about it carefully, everyone. Don’t be that rotten apple in our barrel.”

“That’s right, with the way things are now, anyone that acts up is no better than a criminal to the sect!” Everyone present murmured various affirmations.  Finally, it was unanimously agreed that they would defer to senior brother Jiang Chen in all things. He didn’t particularly shy away from the responsibility either. He might have been able to ignore these people when they weren't in front of his eyes, but he’d rescued them already. There was no way he could leave them alone. Though it was more convenience rather than intent that had precipitated his rescue of these people, he couldn’t just leave them in the lurch, nor could he just let fate take its course with them after rescuing them. For good or for ill, they were once his fellow disciples.

“Since you hold me in such high regard, it is natural that I arrange a future for you here in Veluriyam Capital. My only wish is that our past shame will forge future bravery. Though it may take a hundred, or even a thousand years, I hope that one among you may rise up with unrivalled strength to avenge our sect and rebuild the sect.” After experiencing such adversity, Jiang Chen doubted that they lacked the motivation.

There was a flurry of head bobbing. “That’s right, there is something else. Were Elder Yun Nie and Mu Gaoqi with you on that day?” Jiang Chen asked again, quite suddenly. He was deeply concerned with the duo’s disappearance.

“Yes, we were together, and we were sold here together too. Our senses were sealed away upon arrival, so we don’t know anything after that.”

“That’s right, everyone was together before we were sealed.”

“I was near senior brother Mu Gaoqi at the time, and I think I heard them mutter something about an innate wood constitution, and whether they should put a price on him for separate sale, or something …” one of the fellow disciples said.

“Are you sure?” Hearing that made Jiang Chen very excited.

“Yes, I definitely heard those mumblings back then, but I don’t know anything after that because my senses were then immediately sealed.”

There can be no mistake if he heard that! So, it was quite likely that Mu Gaoqi and Elder Yun Nie had been labeled for separate sale, or had even gone unpriced. No matter what, if those assumptions were true, they should still be safe. Jiang Chen knew in his heart that it was unlikely that the Regal Pill Palace could be rebuilt just by rescuing these people alone. In fact, the possibility was still quite slim. But, if they could rescue Mu Gaoqi, the future hope of rebuilding the Regal Pill Palace would rise by more than ninety percent. The high-order innate wood constitution that Mu Gaoqi possessed was definitely something capable of altering the prospects of their sect in the next thousand years.

Once Mu Gaoqi was rescued and given a few decades or a century to develop, he would definitely have the ability to rebuild the Regal Pill Palace!  It was too bad that he hadn’t been able to rescue the person he wanted to the most. Among the youth of the sect, with the exception of the Ling sisters, Mu Gaoqi was definitely the closest to Jiang Chen. Jiang Chen saw him as something of a younger brother. At the same time, he was the one Jiang Chen was most optimistic about. If Jiang Chen was asked who would be the most likely to rebuild Regal Pill Palace in the future, he would answer Mu Gaoqi first, then Ling Bi’er. As for Shen Trifire and Rong Zifeng, neither of them were cut from that cloth. At most, they would make good advisors, but they lacked that intrinsic ability to turn back a tide.

“Alright, you will all be very safe here. For the next few days, I will ask Miss Huang’er to teach you a few ways to change your appearance. From this day forward, you must adopt different identities. When the time comes, I will open a pill store here in Veluriyam Capital, and openly recruit staff from the public. Then, you can come join me as wandering cultivators. That way, your new identities will be legalized and transparent.”

Everyone was reassured by Jiang Chen’s preparations. Now that everything was taken care of on that front, Jiang Chen turned his attention to the remaining ten slaves. They had been unsealed with the group shortly prior, and even the weakest among them was earth sage realm. Jiang Chen had plans to put them to good use. As their savior, he had an obligation to extract at least some value from them.

 Click through to the official announcement post for pictures of volare staff, WW staff, and yours truly! I did a heart pounding live reading of  those battle scenes! The new novel will launch this weekend!

Chapter 736: Ten Sage Realm Cultivators Submit

His mind made up, Jiang Chen messed around a little in each consciousness before unsealing their senses.

“Who … who are you?”

“Where am I?”

“Am I dead?” Awakening one by one, the dazed people blurted out questions in rapid succession. Jiang Chen had already sent his fellow sect members to another floor of the hideout. Besides the yet sealed slaves beneath them, only he and these ten remained. A faint smile on his face, he waited for them to sort out their thoughts rather than answering straightaway. Though he didn’t know their pasts, it was unrealistic to expect instant submission from sage realm cultivators.

However, he did not plan to actively persuade them either. It was better for them to come to their own conclusions about the situation rather than expending needless effort. A few more moments passed before the ten sorted out their thoughts. When they looked at Jiang Chen again, their gazes were filled with animosity, some almost bordering on malice.

“Excuse me, where are we?”

“Hmph, it's just a kid. Don’t try to scare us!”

“Where are we, cough it up! Who sent you, kid?!” Upon discovering that the brat before them was below them in cultivation, they shed any pretense of self-restraint and let their emotions run free.

“It looks like your heads have cleared, but you still don’t know what kind of state you’re in, huh? I've only heard of the fable of the farmer and the viper where kindness is met by betrayal. I guess you’re the kind of people it describes?” Jiang Chen sneered.

“Kid, what are you talking about?”

“Speak clearly!”

“Speak clearly?” Jiang Chen’s expression darkened. “Need I remind you of your capture and enslavement? Or maybe you already remember, and you’re feigning forgetfulness?”

Of course these people were aware of their situation. But when they only saw a youth before them, they merely saw him as an opportunity to exploit. Faced with Jiang Chen’s plain speech, their affectations of arrogance were instantly cut short.

“Little brother, please give us a clear explanation. I am an old man of several hundred years, and it has been a shameful experience to be ambushed and sold into slavery. If you’re looking to subjugate this old pile of bones, I would rather die.”

“Yes, that’s right. You will enslave us only in death!” Shouts of agreement echoed around the room.

“You have hands and feet, and you’re free to move about. I won't stop you if you want to die. Would someone take the lead? After all, leading by example is a fine trait” Die? Who didn’t know how to speak in hyperbole? These people would actually be quite reluctant to really die. As expected, the expressions of those present grew a little unnatural, even awkward. They had no resolution to instantaneously commit to death.

“I don't know who sold you, neither do I know who you were going to be sold to. I can only tell you this: we are in Veluriyam Capital, and you were held captive at the Myriad Puppets Pavilion, priced and ready for sale. If I hadn’t rescued you, perhaps you would already have been sold to some family to be their servant, doomed to eternal servitude as a slave of the lowest class.” Jiang Chen’s explanation was lengthy but measured, with no hint of disdain. He smiled as he finished. "If anyone here thinks that I’ve made a mistake, I can take you back to Myriad Puppets Pavilion right now. As for where you’ll be headed after that, or whose slave you’ll become… that will no longer be my concern.”

He really had nothing to ask of these people. He only wanted them to understand the situation they'd found themselves in. “Look, down there… that mass of unsold slaves was also part of the group that I rescued. It was but mere convenience to rescue. But take a good hard look. Compare their state to yours, and you’ll see how lucky you are.” Jiang Chen pointed downwards, guiding their gazes. “Why don’t we go down and take a closer look,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly.

Though their bodies were not fully recovered still, they'd just regained consciousness after all, the ten had no problems taking a few steps. They were all completely shocked after probing the larger group below them. It wasn't only the slaves' senses that had been sealed, but also their qi oceans as well. Moreover, the seal on the latter had clear indications of its destructive nature. The sealer only needed to destroy the corresponding tokens to destroy the slaves utterly. Adopting complicated expressions, the ten ascended slowly. Their prior arrogance had all but disappeared.

“Well?” Jiang Chen smiled. “You were actually in the same state as they are a little while ago. If I hadn’t spent some of my consciousness in order to remove the seals on your qi oceans, your lives would still be subject to the whims of House Sikou.”

“Who are you?”

“Why did you rescue us?” Having no basis for further arrogance, the ten adjusted their attitudes. They knew as well as Jiang Chen did that if they didn’t cooperate, they could simply be sent back to the Pavilion.

“As I said, your rescue was merely a matter of convenience. The only reason I removed your seals because I thought you had some use,” Jiang Chen spoke slowly.

“So you mean, you’re going to enslave us as well?” Their  expressions changed in unison.

“What difference is there between this and being sold at the Pavilion?!”

“Hmph, aren’t we still slaves in the end? Huh, I suspect that you’re from House Sikou yourself. This is just a type of brainwashing, isn't it?”

Well, their imaginations were certainly vivid. Jiang Chen was expressionless, but his gaze gradually cooled. “My plans for you aside, what kind of attitude is this? DId you somehow pick up the mistaken notion that you’re irreplaceable? There are still a thousand-odd people over there, do you think I won’t be able to find substitutes from them?” His tone was ice, and his demeanor no longer as polite. These people had no previous relationship with him, nor were they members of his sect, so it was difficult for them to conjure up feelings of unity.

A red-haired man spoke up, “Sir, to me at least, you do not appear to me to be a malicious man. I am personally quite thankful that you came to our rescue. If I may ask, what are your exact plans for us?”

“Yes, tell us the truth. If it’s not too difficult, then of course we will do our best to repay this debt.” One person’s surrender led to the softening of others. After all, this was the way of human nature. Besides the debt they owed to the young man for his rescue, they could also sense the subterfuge within their consciousnesses, though neither party alluded to this fact a single time. They understood better than anyone that the young man could destroy them with a single thought.

Jiang Chen’s face softened slightly, declining further pursuit of their concessions. “Like I said, I rescued you because I thought you of some use to me. If you’re not willing to accept that, say so now. I can take you back to the Myriad Puppets Pavilion at the next opportunity.”

Back to the Pavilion? Back to being a slave with a price tag? Their faces all changed. A fate like that would really be worse than death. Though the young man before them wasn't easy to deal with, at least he didn’t look like the vicious sort.

“Let’s cut to the chase. I need some subordinates who can help me with various things. Though I can’t say that you’re amazingly superb, you’re at least sufficient for my purposes. Here, you can count yourselves as employees or subordinates. If you treat yourselves with respect, I will do the same. Furthermore, I have no desire to take away your permanent freedom. The longest I’ll need you for is a decade or two, though you yourself might not be willing to leave when the time comes.”

Truthfully, Jiang Chen hadn’t actually come up with the proper arrangements for these people just yet. But if he wanted to make a name for himself at the Veluriyam Capital, he needed a group of his own men.  His fellow sect members from Regal Pill Palace lacked both the strength and the ability to share his burdens. He didn't know the origins of these people, but at least they were all sage realm cultivators, with even the least amongst them in the earth sage realm. Although this kind of strength was insufficient to vie for hegemony in the Capital—truthfully they weren't even third-rate, really—it was still better than the origin realm guys from the Regal Pill Palace.

The most important factor was Jiang Chen’s inability to heavily use and yell at his comrades, but these people were free from that worry. Having saved their lives, Jiang Chen felt he had every right to command them for a mere decade or two. By the time he was set up at the Capital, they probably wouldn’t want to leave any more.

“You have fifteen minutes to consider it. Remember, I don’t need an insincere answer, only a choice made from the heart. If you think my conditions are unacceptable, there is no problem in bringing it up with me. On the other hand, feigning compliance while secretly acting in opposition will bear grave consequences,” Jiang Chen said quite seriously.

The fifteen minutes passed by very quickly; the ten of them embroiled in their own thoughts. Evidently, the choice wasn't easy to make.

“I’ve thought it through. Ten or twenty years is nothing. I, Meng Redhair, am willing to follow you for even thirty or fifty years. The time spent is worth it in repaying your kindness.” The red-haired man was first to reply.

“I, too, am willing,” an old man of the sky sage realm also responded. In the world of martial dao, ten or twenty years would pass by with the flick of a finger. The lifespan of sage realm cultivators numbered in the thousands, often longer than two thousand years. Twenty years was really nothing. Furthermore, their rescue was now an established fact. If they took a step back and contemplated their return for eventual sale as a slave, that sort of horrible fate was easily visualized.

“Ah, well, let’s be done with it. I suppose it is a kind of silver lining to have this as the conclusion to a calamity in life.”

“Twenty years it is? I too wholeheartedly entrust myself to you.” With the first capitulation, a second soon followed. No one here was a fool. It was better to take the lighter consequence than the heavier. Twenty years of subordination versus a lifetime of servitude—it was a simple choice between the two.

 Click through to the official announcement post for pictures of volare staff, WW staff, and yours truly! I did a heart pounding live reading of  those battle scenes! The new novel will launch this weekend!

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